There is something unusual about the prologue of Black Widow: it is emotionally engaging and visually interesting, possessing the tactile look and feel of Australian director Cate Shortland’s previous films. Could this be a change from the uniformity of the globally dominant Marvel superhero film franchise? The extended flashback that begins this latest instalment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe moves from intrigue to heartbreak to horror as it portrays a supposedly all-American family of mum, dad and their two young daughters in 1995 suddenly fleeing to Cuba where it is revealed that they are all unrelated Russian intelligence agents. Strongly evoking the murky tension of the television series The Americans it is an exciting opening that promises a blend of gripping action and real character drama with the opportunity for Shortland’s distinctive directorial style to shine through the now very established sheen that characterises this superhero film series that now consists of over twenty films. However, as soon as the opening titles are over and the film cuts to 21 years later, where the eldest girl has grown up to be Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), a former elite assassin who is now one of the Avengers, Black Widow rapidly slides into the familiar Marvel superhero mode. What follows is an entertaining, reasonably stand-alone Cold War inspired action/thriller, but it frustratingly never reaches the full potential that it initially teases.